Accepted paper:

Circulation and accretion: suburban accumulation in Dar es Salaam

Authors:

Claire Mercer (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

The middle classes and the suburbs are mutually constitutive in contemporary urban Africa. Processes of circulation and accretion involving land and housing shore up claims to middle classness, producing distinctive suburban landscapes in what was, 20 years ago, the peri-urban edge of the city.

Paper long abstract:

If the African middle class is growing, how is this group shaping contemporary urban landscapes? This paper begins to sketch out an answer by examining the relationship between middle class growth and suburbanization in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The middle classes and the suburbs are mutually constitutive in contemporary urban Africa. Processes of circulation and accretion involving land and housing shore up claims to middle classness at the same time that they produce distinctive suburban landscapes in what was, 20 years ago, the peri-urban edge of the city. I argue that the suburb must be understood as a spatial, built form as much as it is a particular social space in which class difference is reproduced socially and culturally. Class difference is made and reproduced through the practices of acquiring land, building a house, and living a suburban lifestyle. Such practices involve local and global circulations: of (among other things) people, cash, documents, building materials, cars, design ideas, and soft furnishings. But they also involve accretion - of assets such as houses and cars, of ways of doing things such as planning and building, and of the built environment, such as landscapes. Suburban landscapes are the outcome of decades of overlapping colonial and post-colonial laws, planning procedures, and attempts at urban development; ad hoc donor and private sector interventions; and the accretion of thousands of individual building projects.

panel P112
Engineering the Middle Classes: State Institutions, Wealth, and Aspirations of Citizenship